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How Moov plans to deliver nearly $1M worth of wearables by July

Following the most successful fitness crowdfunding campaign to date, the team behind Moov is gearing up for batch two and making sure its wearable arrives in time for summer.


It took only 90 minutes for Moov, makers of a watch-like fitness wearable, to hit its crowdfunding goal of $40,000. Two weeks have passed since then, and Moov is already to date the most successful crowdfunding fitness campaign -- of which there are many, on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, attempting to serve up a better Jawnone or Fitbit or Nike FuelBand that tells us how to fix ourselves and not just what's wrong.

Preorder sales now near $1 million, equating to more than 16,000 devices the startup says it will deliver by July. A second, even larger batch is slated for a fall arrival for which Moov is now taking more preorders, still at a reduced price but with a $10 bump, from $59.95 to $69.95. The company expects to retail the device for $120.

Nikola Hu, a former Apple engineer and member of Bungie's Halo team who met his fellow co-founders Meng Li and Tony Yuan at Microsoft Research Beijing more than a decade ago, was buried in his computer when the goal was met and surpassed before lunchtime on launch day.

"I don't check money. I work as hard as I can and two hours later, the money guy told me," Hu said with an endearing matter-of-factness as we sat outside of Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View, Calif., a quick jaunt from the small apartment in the back of Mariposa Avenue the team crams into every day, often staying late into the evening. Hu exhibits a nonchalance characteristic not of a headstrong entrepreneur, but that of a focused engineer, as does Li.

"I was not in the same room. I just got it from a message," Li said, though she admitted to being pretty nervous that morning. Moov consulted with dozens of people before launch -- its primary source of investment still remains undisclosed -- but its co-founders had no idea the product would take off as fast as it has. Though, the marketing team behind the launch of the Tile and the all-in-one credit card Coin, prepped Moov appropriately. The company, like Coin, has a sleek Web page and professional promotional material alongside its reliance on a preorder system through its own site, forgoing Kickstarter or Indieigogo.

However, it became apparent quickly that getting the word out was not going to be necessary. Interest came from all sides. Foreigners clamored for support of more sports popular overseas, while functionality and fitness suggestions, job applications, and investor interest began pouring in. "We thought after the first couple days, people get it. They share our message. It's not just another thing for your wrist," Li said. "Lots of people say they didn't buy any wearables because they wanted something like this."

Moov co-founders Nikola Hu, left, and Meng Li, center, in the company's headquarters -- a small apartment on the second floor of a tucked-away complex -- in Mountain View, Calif., while the team's UX designer works with one of its coaches on software. Photo by Nick Statt/CNET

At a time when tech frivolity is inducing class-war froth and startup backlash -- and the difference between Silicon Valley's practical old guard and the advertising-and-app obsessed new guard is playing out across the industry -- Moov's approach is refreshing. Granted, its founders are specialists in not just the sensor technology and software that powers Moov, but in all aspects of making your standard wearable Kickstarter look like a brainstorming session; Yuan, the manufacturing expert on the team, managed the production of the Nokia Lumia 720.

Still, the skills, sensibilities, and modesty create an atmosphere clearly dedicated to product passion, with absolutely none of the startup trademarks beyond Moov's Bay Area location. The company is flush with new cash, but wants to hire strategically. When asked about expanding the team beyond its 10 members, Hu looks upwards quizzically, saying that he thinks they'll need one more software engineer, most likely someone to handle customer support as well.

Li laughs at the last notion, having previously noted that she didn't get much sleep last week and has been fielding e-mails nonstop. "You quickly grow up, overnight sort of," she said of handling an overflow of interest and communication.

Naturally, the work is paying off. Moov's early success is due to its product. It's a wearable people actually want to wear, with functionality that sets it apart and a price point that's highly aggressive. But the guarantee of future success also is being locked down by a series of strategic moves: not relying on crowdfunding sites so the funds would be available immediately; prepping manufacturing so that, just 14 days after preorders open, Moov has four members in Beijing working with Shenzhen-based suppliers; and cutting its first batch short only two weeks in so that it knows it can deliver by summer.

Can Moov break the mold?
The ultimate question now, though, is not one of how Moov will celebrate, but rather if it can deliver on time.

Crowdfunding campaigns, and wearable ones in particular, have been plagued with a delivery curse since smartwatch-maker Pebble set the standard for smashing the ceiling on Kickstarter and being forced to maneuver the muck of manufacturing against a demand that was never anticipated. Pebble, of course, came out on the other end as a full-fledged company, now a wearable superstar that can finally breathe, iterate on design, and move forward.

But many wearables of the fitness variety, especially those intent on serving up next-gen trackers, have languished in manufacturing limbo or cautiously promised delivery dates far off into the future. Moov, to realize its desired position in the market, can afford neither.

Two of the six Moov team members working late in the evening in the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. The startup's other four employees are already in Beijing, working with Shenzhen-based suppliers on manufacturing the first batch of devices. Photo by Nick Statt/CNET

When asked if Moov will be able to deliver on the large number of devices customers have not only preordered, but also paid for upfront -- a key difference between Moov's preorder system and Kickstarter and Indiegogo's -- Li gives a definitive yes. "We hit it [the preorder goal] in 90 minutes," Li explained. "That gave us the luxury to shift the focus."

"A lot of people don't understand what manufacturing means," Hu added. "We understand you have to sit with the workers in the factory. A lot of people think you just throw the specs, and that's not how it works. It's a lot of iteration. You stay in the factory, and if a problem comes up, you have to solve it instantly."

Another requirement is the ability to take things off the table. Moov is a no-frills tracker, relying on sensors and software. There is no metal in the band that could lead to skin irritation or cause more complicated manufacturing issues. "When we designed this, our designer had lots of ideas at the very beginning. A lot of them have been scratched out," Hu said. "Pretty sci-fi requirements -- probably not for now, but we'll think about it."

"We will work really hard to simplify the whole device. Get rid of the stuff we don't read. Sharp focus is the most important thing," Li added.

As for what's ahead, Moov has a lot of options. It can get to work on adding more sport functionality to its iOS app, accelerate the timeline of Android compatibility, or Hu could further build out the band's SDK to get it into developers' hands sooner. All of that is on the horizon, but right now, the product experience for the first Moov users appears paramount. "What we're doing right now," Li said, "is preparing for the moment they open the box."

Update at 9:48 a.m. PT: Clarified that final retail pricing for Moov will be $120.